Deadly Lies: How The Medical Profession Sold Us Out For Statin Riches

This is the second of a series. The first can be found here.

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When the national campaign to bring awareness about the dangers of dietary cholesterol and Coronary Heart Disease was first embarked upon, educating the public was the goal. What those of us in the public sector didn't know was the battle being waged behind the curtain. While we were avidly engrossed in the media saturated warnings about cholesterol and its destructive defects on the human heart, the nation's physicians were not convinced. Through a poll, the NIH learned that the majority of the nation's physicians disagreed.

The National Cholesterol Education Program was developed to target the physicians, not the public. Pharmaceutical companies were eager partners in the effort. They stood to reap billions from the newly created market. Soon medical journals were full of advertisements for cholesterol-lowering drugs, Merck's statin, for one. From coast to coast, pharmaceutical reps were banging down the doors of every cardiologist, family physician, and general practitioner.

Questions continued to be raised by those physicians not easily swayed. And though they conducted research, wrote papers, and did detailed analyses, they continued to lose ground in their arguments. They didn't have the money to sponsor national conferences or build financial alliances, for there is no money to be made by resisting. In fact, the Heart Institute is the very agency which grants most research monies and that is who the dissenters were up against.

The machine pushing the cholesterol issue was a force to be reckoned with. Robert I. Levy was a lipid expert who helped launch MR. FIT, followed by acting as director of the Heart Institute, then on to head of a research subsidiary of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals and later President of Wyeth-Ayers Research. Daniel Steinberg, a cholesterol researcher headed the lipid research lab at the University of California at San Diego, as well as being one of the investigators for the CPPT, followed by joining the panel which developed the National Cholesterol Education Program. Antonio Gotto was the head of the American Heart Association, but he was also head of the Baylor University lipid research lab and had also worked on CPPT. Gotto was very familiar with Scott M. Grundy who was the AHA's leading diet expert and a cholesterol researcher. He drew up the dietary provisions of the NCEP, and was head of the lab at the University of Texas which tested cholesterol-lowering drugs. John LaRosa chaired a national conference sponsored by the Heart Institute, as well as the diet committee of the AMA. He, too, was an investigator in the CPPT.

Let's take a step back and walk along another path. Cholesterol had been suspected of being involved with another life snuffing disease...the Big C, cancer. A group of leading epidemiological researchers had it in their mind that cholesterol was the culprit behind another medical crime. They believed there was an association between high levels of cholesterol and the high rates of colon cancer. It was 1974, and there wasn't much data to go on other than data from other countries where diets rich in saturated fats also had higher rates of colon cancer. They pulled together the records of men with colon-cancer who had participated in 6 epidemiological studies as well as the Framingham study. A surprise awaited them. The very opposite of what they had suspected was true. Instead of high blood cholesterol levels being found, they discovered significantly lower levels.

In 1978, The World Health Organization had launched their own study using the drug clofibrate. The study was being conducted at the same time the NIH was conducting their studies, but the WHO had to cut short their study due to the high number of cancer cases. Once again, a relationship between low cholesterol levels and cancer was found. The question of whether it was the drug or the low cholesterol responsible for the cancers was raised but never researched. Those involved decided the drug was at fault without doing any research to verify their belief. Small studies done by various groups continued to link low cholesterol levels with cancers, but no one placed any importance on the links.

By 1978 when a group of French researchers found the same relationship in a study of 7600 gov't employees, the incidence rate climbed in pace with the dropping of cholesterol levels below 200 md/dl, the very range the Heart Institute insists is highly “desirable.” Rather than instigate further research into the findings, the French researchers acknowleged the predominant accepted view that it wasn't a causal link. Instead of seeing the low cholesterol levels as an indicator of cause in the development of cancer, they wrote it off as being a byproduct of cancer.

Even though the National Cancer Institute weighed in on the question of cancer and low cholesterol, the prevailing attitudes could not be swayed. In 1987, the NCI found that men with the lowest cholesterol levels were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer as those with the HIGHEST levels.

Three Japanese researchers raised questions about a link between low cholesterol and another illness, stroke. In 1979, they published a paper in the journal Preventive Medicine outlining the findings of their study. It gave evidence that communities where average blood cholesterol levels were below 180 mg/dl, the rates of stroke and stomach cancer were three times more likely to occur than those with higher levels.

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The real truth behind the huge push for statin drug approval is the money to be made then and the money that continues to pour into the profit margins of pharmaceutical companies. But we can't just blame Big Pharma. The researchers and physicians who have worked on the many studies associated with cholesterol research as well as the cholesterol drug research are just as guilty. They've prostituted themselves in the form of writing articles in medical journals, burying and/or downplaying any negative issues going against their personal agendas of accumulating wealth. The NCEP and public campaigning for cholesterol reduction brought many new patients into the office, as well as them being required follow-up visits for life if they were placed on the medicines prescribed. Many of the officials and panelists who made up the NIH, AMA, AHA, NHI, etc. all had financial ties to the pharmaceutical companies marketing statins. In fact, Dr. Paul M. Ridker was in charge of the Jupiter study, funded by AstraZeneca in the hopes of increasing sales. The “good” doctor had financial ties to no less than 10 pharmaceutical companies.

Last year, $146,000,000 was made by companies peddling statin drugs that have never been proved to be effective. How much of that money was yours?

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